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Preview: The Other History of the DC Universe #2

The Other History of the DC Universe #2

Written by: John Ridley
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchi
Color: José Villarrubia
Letterer: Steve Wands

Before the New Teen Titans, there were the original Teen Titans. In the tumultuous 1970s, in an America that was very different than today but in many ways all too familiar, the trials and tribulations of these young heroes were witnessed by two of DC’s first Black superheroes: Karen Beecher-Duncan, better known as Bumblebee, and Mal Duncan-even if their versions of events are often at odds. And across that decade, they fought for their seats at the Titans’ table while joining the battle against injustice. The long-awaited miniseries written by Academy Award-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave, Let It Fall) and beautifully illustrated by Giussepi Camuncoli and Andrea Cucchi continues to look at the mythology of the DC Universe as seen through the prism of DC Super Heroes who come from traditionally disenfranchised groups.

The Other History of the DC Universe #2

Review: Future State: Green Lantern #1

Future State: Green Lantern #1

Future State has been delivering a fascinating look at possible futures of the DC Universe. While some have provided pretty smooth transitions, others have left too many questions. The world these comics exist in themselves are a distraction. Future State: Green Lantern #1 is one of those issues. In this future, the Green Lantern battery appears to be no more, and the Lanterns a shell of what they were. Why? Who knows. But, it’s a question that’ll be in the back of your head while you read the comic.

Geoffrey Thorne delivers an interesting story of a siege and last stand. John Stewart is leading a band of Lanterns as they protect a planet under siege. Their goal is to get survivors off the planet and slow the tide of attack. Coming out so soon after the events of January 6, it’s an odd comic as it’s hard to read it and not think of the officers who stood against the attacking crowds.

Thorne gives us a valiant issue. Future State: Green Lantern #1 presents the Lanterns as heroes who put their own lives on the line even when the odds are against them. There’s no fancy rings to wield, it’s just guns and swords to hold off the evil they face. And, some give their lives in doing so. Thorne delivers emotion and trauma as the odds diminish and you’re left not knowing if Stewart and team will walk away.

I sort of like Tom Raney’s art. With color by Mike Atiyeh and lettering by Andworld Design, it’s more of a personal thing for me. There’s a slight cartoonish style to the comic that doesn’t quite click for me. But there’s some great moments and I really like the design of the characters. Raney gives us the emotional hits and a good look at Stewart’s reactions. But, the art doesn’t quite click with the drama. As a sci-fi comic, the style works really well but here it doesn’t nail the emotional moments.

The comic features a second tale, “The Taking of Sector 0123“. Written by Ryan Cady with art by Sami Basri, colors by Hi-Fi, and lettering by Dave Sharpe, it’s a solid story featuring Jessica Cruz. Some of Sinestro’s Yellow Lantern Corp have headed to a Green Lantern station with an intention of taking it over. All that’s left to stop them is Cruz without her power ring. What takes place is a story we’ve seen many times before. It’s Die Hard and numerous other films of that sort but it works. It works really well. That ending though! It’s the strongest of the three stories within.

The third story, “Book of Guy“, is really humorous as Guy Gardner is stuck on a world after his Ring’s power gives out. Written by Ernie Altabacker with art by Clayton Henry, color by Marcelo Maiolo, and lettering by Steve Wands, the story is entertaining and cute, a solid back-up story. It’s funny and definitely had me laughing by the end.

Future State: Green Lantern #1 isn’t a bad issue at all but it dances the history of the DC Universe up to this point. It’s hard to not keep wondering what problem hit the Green Lanterns. Why are things like the way they are. It left me wanting to learn about that more than what was presented. That’s good in a way but also a bit frustrating as well.

Story: Geoffrey Thorne, Ryan Cady, Ernie Altabacker Art: Tom Raney, Sami Basri, Clayton Henry
Color: Mike Atiyeh, Hi-Fi, Marcelo Maiolo Letterer: Andworld Design, Dave Sharpe, Steve Wands
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Future State: The Flash #1

Future State: The Flash #1

Future State: The Flash #1 is an interesting comic. As much as it takes place “in the future”, its style and story feel very much in the past. Team Flash has been depowered and are on a mission to stop Wally West who has turned evil running around the world killing.

Written by Brandon Vietti, the comic is an interesting one in concept. Team Flash are forced to take up arms with the weapons of the Rogues in a mission to gain tools to stop Wally. The story would normally be totally ok and a story arc I might expect in the ongoing. But, the focus on Wally being a murderer, not too long after he was in fact a murderer, seems like odd timing. Wally just redeemed himself in a way with his actions in Dark Nights: Death Metal but we’re reminded so soon after of his dark side. Fans of Wally West will likely hate this.

The story itself though is pretty good. The mission of the Flashes is intriguing and the build is good. Vietti does a solid job of depicting Barry Allen. He’s center of the story and his hope is on full display. This is an aspect of the character that has been played up since his return. It’s nice to see that here as it emphasizes that it’s a theme within DC Comics as a whole. Even with a “dark” storyline, there’s still hope at the heart of it.

Dale Eaglesham’s art is pretty solid. There’s a “classic” feel to it and it’s interesting to see a Flash comic without the need for much motion in the art. With the group depowered, we don’t get the running we normally see. There isn’t that sense, or need, for much motion. But, Eaglesham does a solid amount of action with delivers some subtle moments of emotion. He’s joined by Mike Atiyeh on color and Steve Wands handles the lettering.

Future State: The Flash #1 is a solid story arc for an ongoing series. It feels like one of those fill-in stories in between bigger arcs that lasts a few issues. The comic doesn’t blow me away, or excite me, but it’s still a good read that’s entertaining.

Story: Brandon Vietti Art: Dale Eaglesham
Color: Mike Atiyeh Letterer: Steve Wands
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read


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Review: Future State: The Next Batman #1

Future State: The Next Batman #1

With John Ridley writing the main story, there’s no way I wasn’t going to read Future State: The Next Batman #1. A new Batman in a fascist Gotham written by Ridley is a combination that’s right up my alley. And even with a high bar to cover, I was not only pleased, but excited to read the next issue and wishing we were getting more than two.

In this future Gotham, a militaristic police called The Magistrate has taken over pushing the Gotham P.D. to the side. “The Bat” and masks are outlawed and hunted down. A new Batman is in town not just stopping crime but attempting to save masks from a fate at the hand of the Magistrate.

Ridley delivers such a strong opening and familiar but different take on the character. There’s a classic Batman vibe to it all going back to the basics of a man in a costume with his grappling hook and smoke. It’s theatrical in many ways and feels like a cross of the early years of the character and Batman 1989. Ridley also spins things a bit with layers on the fascism and vigilantism. Some take Batman as an extension of a rightwing agenda as far as justice but to see him rail against an overreaching government is a nice and different spin. It makes me want to see Ridley release a maxi-series further exploring the concepts touched upon here.

The art by Nick Derington is top-notch. There are so many panels and pages that evoke classic Batman with a few paying an homage to classic imagery. Derington is joined by Tamra Bonvillain on color and Clayton Cowles on colors. The combination creates a look and feel of a “classic Batman” story and some of the modern classics that use the shadows to evoke fear and excitement for what’s to come.

Future State: The Next Batman #1 is one of the expanded “Future State” issues featuring two other stories.

Outsiders” is written by Brandon Thomas with art by Sumit Kumar, ink by Kumar and Raul Fernandez, color by Jordie Bellaire, and lettering by Steve Wands. We get to see a new crew of Outsiders as they attempt to take down The Magistrate. It’s a great extension of the world in the main story showing more of the resistance against the fascist police. There’s a lot packed into the story really setting things up and creating a world out of a dozen pages or so. It feels in a way two short stories itself but is such a strong entry that expands the world and compliments the main story. The art is fantastic as well delivering some great action.

Arkham Knights Chapter 1 Rise” is written by Paul Jenkins with art by Jack Herbert, color by Gabe Eltaeb, and lettering by Rob Leigh. Much like the other story, this one also adds a lot to this new world. The Arkham Knights is a squad of Batman villains who have come together to take on The Magistrate. There’s a Suicide Squad vibe about it but the concept and how it’s presented is really interesting. It’s the specifics of the concept that really stand out. The art too is great with updates to classic characters.

Future State: The Next Batman #1 is a winner of a comic. I wanted to read more immediately and now I want an entire series exploring this world. There’s some great concepts here and an interesting exploration of the line between justice and fascism. Where the line is drawn is a great concept to dive in to and this comic dances around it with some fantastic writing and characters. A lot is packed into the extended issue and it’s such a welcome addition to the DC and Batman mythology.

Story: John Ridley, Brandon Thomas, Paul Jenkins Art: Nick Derington, Sumit Kumar, Jack Herbert
Ink: Sumit Kumar, Raul Fernandez Color: Tamra Bonvillain, Jordie Bellaire, Gabe Eltaeb

Letterer: Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Rob Leigh
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman: Black & White #1

Batman: Black & White #1

Anthology series are always something I enjoy to read in comics. In a comic, you get varied voices and styles, getting to see what creators you might not read would do with characters. It’s also a chance to see what different creators would do in the same sandbox. That often results in a lot of variation showing how versatile comics and their characters can be. Batman: Black & White #1 kicks off a new series with one hell of a start.

Batman: Black & White #1 is one of the best anthologies I’ve read in some time. While the stories are varied and interesting, this debut issue’s art is what really stands out. There’s a common theme, beyond Batman, of artists breaking the mold delivering visuals that “break the page”.

With five stories, Batman: Black & White #1 gives us variation not just in styles but the perspectives and subjects. There’s some “traditional” Batman focused stories but others come from different perspectives. The opening for example is told from the perspective of a member of the League of Assassins.

Each story is entertaining in their own way. They are varied in pacing, tone, and focus, keeping things interesting. Some keep things more traditional in the narrative while others are presented in a more poetic style. The dialogue and types of stories alone are worth picking up the issue. But, it’s the art that really stands out in this issue.

The styles of art vary but they all have one thing in common. Each story breaks traditional page layouts and panels. The opening story uses Batman’s cape to break up the sequences, another is laid out like poem flowing across the page. Another story uses the pearls of Bruce Wayne’s mother to break up the page. In an amazing visual, art from throughout the years is laid out on page like a collage of Batman’s history. You’ll linger on every page in awe as to what’s been laid out. Every inch of the page is used and used well. Only one of the stories comes close to expected page layouts and even then, that tale delivers a lot for Batman fans in the background.

All of that is delivered in black and white.

Batman: Black & White #1 is a hell of a start to the series. It had me lingering on pages in awe of what was before me and wanting more. It shows off some amazing art and will have you longing for more of this and fewer boxes on the page. This is a fantastic issue for Batman fans and fans of beautiful art. It also creates a high bar for future issues to reach.

Story: James Tynion IV, J.H. Williams III, G. Willow Wilson, Emma Rios, Paul Dini
Art: Tradd Moore, J.H. Williams III, Greg Smallwood, Emma Rios, Andy Kubert, Dexter Soy
Letterer: Clayton Cowles, Todd Klein, Clem Robins, Steve Wands, Rob Leigh
Story 8.45 Art: 10 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: The Other History of the DC Universe #1

The Other History of the DC Universe #1

I had high expectations for John Ridley‘s The Other History of the DC Universe. But, I didn’t expect The Other History of the DC Universe #1 to crush those expectations so much. It’s that good and well worth the wait. Ridley is a producer and writer who has been behind such amazing productions as 12 Years a Slave and American Crime. The latter one being some of the best television in the last decade. And in this debut, Ridley does in one issue what others haven’t achieved in an entire run.

The Other History of the DC Universe #1 kicks off a new miniseries that explores the history of the DC Universe from the perspective of characters from disenfranchised groups. This isn’t the white-washed history written by winners, instead, it’s a brutal and honest take from perspectives we don’t get to often read and see.

The debut issue follows the story of Jefferson Pierce, the man who will one day become Black Lightning. Taking place between 1972 and 1995, we see Pierce’s growth from a young man to star athlete to teacher to hero. It shows us both the good and the bad in a condensed take on the character’s history. We get highs, lows, victories, and tragedies, all in one issue.

Ridley’s delivery is amazing. There’s a poetic flow to his narrative which forgoes traditional dialogue and instead pages are packed with Pierce’s thoughts. The issue feels more like a novel with amazing visuals than a traditional comic. This is more of a diary confession. Taken through the years we get a sense of how events impact Pierce and his decisions on each step of his journey. There’s good and bad as we see how those decisions both succeed and fail. It’s an honest assessment of the character and we can see his growth and failures as a person. In one comic Ridley gives us a fully fleshed out character full of flaws and an understandable perspective.

Through Pierce, Ridley explores the rise of DC’s superheroes including Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, and their impact on the world. It’s a brutal and honest take highlighting the focus on global threats but ignoring everyday suffering. Any of these heroes could potentially reshape so much of the social injustice but they choose not to. They stay out of the day to day struggles and slip into their roles as Gods protecting mankind. Black Lightning and Pierce are the antitheses of that, shaping children at the school level and then shaping the community in a battle against street crime. He also sees it as white heroes ignoring those of a different skin color. The trio, Green Arrow, the Flash, with the only person not quite fitting that being Martian Manhunter. Ridley explores, through Black Lightning, that these heroes didn’t dare cross into his territory to help, only to scold him.

Ridley is boosted by the jaw-dropping layouts and art. Giuseppe Camuncoli handles the layouts with Andrea Cucchi‘s finishes and the result is amazing. The pages are unreal in style, perspective, and use of panel. The line art itself captures the look of DC Comics during the time. The duo are helped by José Villarubia‘s colors which again echo the style of the 70s and 80s. This is a love letter when it comes to the classic art style of DC Comics from Neal Adams to Denny O’Neil with a little Frank Miller thrown in as well. Everything comes together visually for a treat and one of the best looking issues this year.

Steve Wands‘ lettering too just adds so much. When I mentioned there was a lot of text, I wasn’t joking. Pages are near prose level and Wands makes it flow packing in so much into each page. The skill to pull that off and not impact the imagery is at master level. What’s more impressive is the lettering at times looks like it was worked into the art, spaces purposely left to fill in with Ridley’s prose.

The Other History of the DC Universe #1 is a triumph of a comic. Though it’s main character has amazing powers, in the end it’s the man that truly matters. We see his impact, both good and bad, in the streets fighting and his role in the school guiding. Ridley shows us the fallout, the bodies piled up, the marriage shattered. He gives us a realistic and honest take on the superhero. And he does all of this in one issue.

Story: John Ridley Layouts: Giuseppe Camuncoli Finishes: Andrea Cucchi
Color: José Villarubia Letterer: Steve Wands
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9.75 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Sweet Tooth: The Return #1

Sweet Tooth: The Return #1

I’ve never read an issue of Sweet Tooth. As much of a fan of Jeff Lemire as I am, I never went back and read the series, no matter how many good things I’ve heard. So, with its latest volume set to debut, I thought I’d dive in to Sweet Tooth: The Return #1. And, after the first issue, I’m intrigued…

Sweet Tooth: The Return isn’t a follow up it seems. From the solicits it’s described as a “bold re-imagining” of the mythology. It takes the elements of the original series and remixes them into something familiar but new. As I haven’t read the original, I can’t really comment on that. The comic and the world is new to me. So, I’ll leave others to go in that direction.

Writer and artist Jeff Lemire delivers a world of mystery. It’s a story of indoctrination with a theme and message that can be debated for some time. Where Lemire is going with it all, I’m not quite sure yet but there’s a clear focus on a cult-like world. That focus had me wondering if Lemire was giving us a series with commentary on our modern world, taking his classic concept with updating it with today’s sociopolitical world. Where the environment might have been a topic before, demagogic leaders is the theme of this one.

The debut issue introduces us to a mysterious world as its main character explores and discovers it, so do we. It’s a location where we feel captive and denied knowledge. An interesting debut that toys and plays with how much information is provided to the reader and when. Just when you think you’re about to break free, for instance, you don’t. Instead, the issue and its world remains somewhat claustrophobic and confined.

Lemire is joined by José Villarubia on the art. Lemire’s style is enhanced with Villarubia’s watercolor-like addition. The art is beautiful, as expected. There’s also a weird beauty of this world. It’s an almost sterile environment, perfect in design with nothing out of place. That leaves the small details to focus on. Dirty, crusty finger nails deliver a sense of malevolence. What seems like mechanical nurses adds a bit of unease. It’s a mystery of a debut that forces you to look for clues among the visuals.

Sweet Tooth: The Return #1 is an interesting debut. While it doesn’t have me wanting to see what has come before, I want to see where the series goes. The story of attempting to escape your current reality is something that’s very relevant to today and the religious aspect to it makes it all the more intriguing. As someone new to the world of Sweet Tooth, I’m excited to see where it all goes and watch Lemire work his usual magic.

Story: Jeff Lemire Art: Jeff Lemire
Color: José Villarubia Letterer: Steve Wands
Story: 8.15 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal Guidebook #1

DARK NIGHTS: DEATH METAL GUIDEBOOK #1

I remember “guidebooks” from back in the day. They’d be a lot of text that were more like roleplaying game supplements than comic books. And that’s what I expected with Dark Nights: Death Metal Guidebook #1. I was also really wrong about that as well. The Dark Nights: Death Metal tie-in is full of standalone stories and tales that shed more light on what has happened. It’s also a perfect guide for those that skipped “Year of the Villain” and want to catch up.

Dark Nights: Death Metal Guidebook #1 featured five stories from various creative teams and in between it has one-page guides/sketches that I was expected more of. As with all anthologies, the quality varies in story and art but this is the rare case where everything is at least good if not great. The story subjects, tones, and focus are all different delivering insight into the event.

The main chunk of the comic is made up of the “Fall of Earth”. The story goes into detail exactly what happened. While it skips some of the lead up it’s the perfect read for those who want to know what they missed. In goes into so much detail it spoils the first three issues of Dark Nights: Death Metal as well. It’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the event and when I got to the end, I felt like I had a good grasp as to what was going on and the why. None of it was Earth-shattering (pun intended) but I feel like I have a bit more of a grasp as to what’s going on now.

The other four stories focus on various heroes and villains and where they stand.

Harley Quinn gets a spotlight as she explores the irradiated wastelands and it answers some questions as to what has happened to some villains while raising questions as well. Aquaman is the most intriguing of the stories as it shows a former King subjugated and folded to protect his people. We learn more about Wonder Woman and her jail of villains. The story is the highlight of the comic delivering an emotional punch. Wrapping it up is a story featuring Batman, Jonah Hex, and the Joker Dragon. While the overall story is the weakest of the bunch it also has some key details that will impact the main story. There’s a reason Hex was chosen by Batman and something he must do if things go sideways.

The art is pretty solid all around. The styles vary a bit but none of it varies too much from each other. It’s unique but cohesive at the same time. All of it is good across the board and each has its moments that’ll leave you lingering. With a limited amount of pages to work with, the art is key to tell the story and bring emotion.

Dark Nights: Death Metal Guidebook #1 is a one-shot tie-in that really works. While it feels like it should have come out earlier in the event, it does a great job of acting as a starting point for those who missed the first three issues. It answers a lot of questions and also drops some key hints for the main story as well. It’s a spin-off that feels as vital as any main event issue.

Story: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Chip Zdarsky, Becky Cloonan, Vita Ayala, Christopher Priest
Art: Doug Mahnke, Khary Randolph, Becky Cloonan, Dan Panosian, Eduardo Risso
Ink: Jamie Mendoza
Color: David Baron, Emilio Lopez, Tamra Bonvillain, Luis Guerrero, Eduardo Risso
Lettering: Tom Napolitano, Dave Sharpe, Steve Wands, Ferran Delgado, Willie Schubert
Story: 8.15 Art: 8.15 Overall: 8.15 Recommendation: Buy

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Preview: Harley Quinn Black + White + Red Chapter Four: “Who Diss?”

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red Chapter Four

Written by Tim Seeley
Pencils Juan Ferreyra
Inks Juan Ferreyra
Colored by Juan Ferreyra
Lettering by Steve Wands
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“Who Diss?”
The Joker is a master of many things, but one of them is not the mic. When a mythical recording of the Joker’s disastrous rapping turns up as the grand prize in Gotham City’s most elite rap battle tournament, Harley Quinn enters the contest to win this most excellent way to humiliate her awful ex. But who are Gotham’s fiercest rappers? Can Harley Quinn hold her own? The answers will shock you.

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red Chapter Four

Review: Harley Quinn Black + White + Red Chapter Four: “Who Diss?”

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red Chapter Four

Fridays can be looked forward to for more than the weekend, it’s also new chapters of Harley Quinn Black + White + Red. The DC Digital First series has stood out in the program as each chapter so far has stood on its own and none are alike. Each creative team, or single creator, really brings their voice and talent delivering their take on the modern classic character. Harley Quinn Black + White + Red Chapter Four is no exception.

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red Chapter Four: “Who Diss?” has Harley entering a rap battle to get “the Joker Tape,” a mythical cassette featuring the Joker rapping. It’s a completely insane and out there take on the character and story and completely works. The chapter understands these are one and done stories and you can go out and just have fun with it. And the story is a lot of fun.

Writer Tim Seeley shows off his humor, and his rhymes, in a comic that is just too bizarre to describe. It’s a rap battle, that’s it, there’s not much more to it. And with that simple premise, Seeley makes sure to focus on the rhyme and the lyrics delivering some sick verses and beats that cut. It works and works well in that comic you can just read and enjoy. It’s silly fun.

Seeley’s concept works primarily due to Juan Ferrerya‘s art and Steve Wands‘ lettering. The art is delivered in interesting panels and angles as the lyrics are dropped back and forth. It delivers “action” to a concept that doesn’t have a lot of it. But, there’s something to the flow as well. The angle of the panels and stances of the characters help emphasize the rhythmic nature of it all. The lettering does that as well with key words emphasized and an attempt to bring the musical aspect of it all to the page. This is a story that really relies on the art to really deliver “the flow.”

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red Chapter Four is a crazy chapter that just works. It’s a goofy concept that is one you can pick up and just enjoy. There’s a cuteness and humor to it all, especially seeing the embarrassment that Ivy feels being a part of it all. The team really delivers both in the lyrics, and some subtle jokes, as well as art that delivers the “battle” aspect of the rap. Another excellent chapter showing off how much you can do with Harley Quinn and also when you let your creators have fun.

Story: Tim Seeley Art: Juan Ferrerya Letterer: Steve Wands
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy


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